I think that most everyone can agree that the GameCube (GC) didn’t go over quite as well as Nintendo had probably hoped. Even with its generally lower price point, the system still found itself finishing in a disappointing third place last generation, trailing both the PS2 and Microsoft’s first home console the Xbox.
Despite the lack of GCs in homes, there really was a large amount of great software made for the system. While a small number of these titles came from third-party developers (ex: Resident Evil 4), many of the best GC games came from Nintendo themselves. So, if you’ve got the most popular system in town now due to its focus on motion controls, a ton of customers who are completely new to video games, and a sack full of well-made titles from your last console, what would you do? If you’re Nintendo, the answer to this question is what’s known as New Play Control!
The idea behind New Play Control! is simple yet ingenious. Take a game from the last generation of consoles, add the ability to use the Wii’s motion-sensing controls instead of its traditional control options, and repackage it at a bargain price for a new and larger audience. In the case of New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis, this idea seems to make even more sense. While the Wii Sports pack-in game was great and really showcased how to use the system’s motion controls, each included sport lacked the depth usually found in a singularly focused game release. This left many Wii owners wanting complete sports titles that expanded upon the enjoyable but shallow experiences found in these sports mini-games. So, instead of having to spend the time and money to develop a new tennis game from scratch, New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis was created by retrofitting one of last generation’s best tennis games with motion controls.
Unfortunately, while the idea behind the game is incredibly solid, the included motion controls are anything but. In fact, most of the motion controls that are meant to make playing the game more realistic, approachable, and fun wind up backfiring entirely. Players are able to swing their Wii-motes in either a forehand or backhand motion, which will often result in their character mimicking their desired swing. However, there are times when the game will fail to correctly register which direction you are actually swinging, resulting in your character making a completely unintended shot. This issue tends to persist whether you’re moving your own character using the Nunchuk or are just letting the Wii handle character movement by unplugging the attachment.
Trying to perform specific shots such as a lob or drop shot will require more flailing, luck, and ultimately anger than actual skill. Both of these shots, in a perfect world, are done using a directly upward or downward motion, respectively, with the Wii-mote. Not only do these motions feel odd due to the awkward straight up and down movements required to utilize them, they are just about impossible to pull off accurately. Considering that correctly using these two shots can be all that stands between a victory and a defeat as the game gets progressively more difficult, the fact that they are so frustrating to use and register so poorly is inexcusable.
Of course, placing one’s shots is no longer handled with the analog stick but now relies entirely on the timing of your swing. Swinging at a ball a little early will have you pulling your shot to the left side of the court while waiting will send it to the right. While you can periodically get this to work properly, it never feels anywhere close to being as precise or guaranteed as it was on the GC. This even makes charged shots feel strange, since it can be hard to tell if you should be swinging to hit the ball in the right direction or waiting for a stronger hit.
The fact that the motion controls are done so poorly is really quite frustrating considering that underneath them lies the same great tennis game from the last generation of consoles. Players can still take any of their favorite Nintendo characters through a series of singles or doubles tournaments, with each win unlocking more events and characters to have fun with. Also, if you are looking to take a break from the more serious and competitive tennis tournaments, Mario Power Tennis also provides an assortment of Gimmick Courts and mini-games. Gimmick Courts can be quite interesting, factoring different mechanics such as expanding and contracting tiles on the court into otherwise normal matches.
This title’s mini-games can also be pretty enjoyable but, unfortunately, many of them suffer due to the sloppy motion control implementation. Trying to return a ball through rings that hover above the net is more reliant on luck than skill this time around. However, none of the included mini-games suffer from the shoddy controls more than the one that involves painting with tennis balls. In this mini-game, you’ll need to hit colored balls into specified areas of each provided picture to fill in the appropriate colors of several Nintendo character outlines. While completing these provided a slight amount of challenge in the old GC version of this game, here it greatly challenges your luck, arm strength, and patience as you try to get the game to correctly register your swings.
For a game that was released for an older console in 2004, Mario Power Tennis looks surprisingly good on the Wii. In fact, I would venture to say that this game actually looks better than many of the games being made specifically for the Wii. When playing the game you’ll find many varied and interesting-looking courses, well-animated and brightly colored characters, and some good lighting and ball tracing effects too. If you look closely enough, you may even spot a few small additions to the game such as a slick new picture-in-picture replay system.
Regrettably, in the end, the story of New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis is a very sad one. Presumably the entire reason for this game’s existence is to make a great older title more fun and approachable by adding the ability to use motion controls. However, due to its incredibly sloppy motion control implementation and the fact that you can’t use any form of traditional controls, the gameplay manages to feel inferior to that of the original GC version. If you want
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.9 Graphics
Mario and the gang all look surprisingly good in this minimally updated GameCube game. 2.0 Control
For a game that exists solely because of its new controls, one would think that they’d actually work better instead of much worse than the controls they were replacing. 3.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Pretty standard fare for a Mario Sports title, although there isn’t much variety in the characters’ voice clips. 2.5
While there are a good variety of things to do in the game, the imprecise motion controls manage to suck much of the fun out of them.
2.5 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.